WASHINGTON -- President Bush confessed yesterday to having said "a bad word . . . a really naughty word" in front of a lady.
The elementary school children to whom the president made the admission didn't judge him too harshly, though.
One of them presented him with a green bookmark in the treelike shape of Mr. Bush's least favorite vegetable, prompting him to wrinkle his nose and ask how many liked broccoli. At least half raised their hands.
It all happened at the White House, where Mr. Bush read fairy tales and poems yesterday to 15 first- and second-graders from Zachary Taylor Elementary School in nearby Arlington, Va., as part of Read Aloud Day, a nationwide program to encourage adults to read to children.
When he reached a passage about a boy who was punished for saying bad words, Mr. Bush paused and told the children, who were seated on the floor around him: "I said a bad word yesterday and I was very embarrassed. . . . I told the lady in front of whom I said it, 'I'm very sorry.' "
Just what the word was and who was the lady, the president wouldn't say.
"I can't tell you because they'll find out," he said, gesturing to a group of reporters.
"It was a really naughty word," he said. "I was so -- was so ashamed of myself."
Mr. Bush refused to respond later to a reporter's shouted questions about the woman and what he had said. Aides said they did not know what the president was referring to.
Mr. Bush seemed relaxed and to be enjoying himself during his 30-minute diversion with the children.
He read to them the story of "The Fox and the Grapes" and poems from Robert Louis Stevenson's "Child's Garden of Verses" and told them that one of the poems, "The Swing," he had enjoyed 60 years ago when he was 7.